It’s Senior Day in the Swamp as Florida’s 18 seniors attempt to go out with a bang against FCS foe Jacksonville State. With all the story lines surrounding this game here’s five fun things to look for as this game unfolds.
The Gators, seniors and all, seek to become only the third Florida team to go 7-0 in the Swamp. At the beginning of the season the players listed their team goals. Of course the usual win the SEC East, win the SEC Championship game, win a BCS title were all on the list. Those goals are mostly gone although they still have an outside chance of playing for a BCS title. The one goal still left squarely in their sight and in their control is going undefeated at home. There is a great chance of that happening today against a highly overmatched foe in the Gamecocks. Of course, as every Gator fan knows, nothing is ever guaranteed. Last year against FCS foe Furman they were actually only up by five points going into the fourth quarter as the Gators allowed them to pile up rushing yards and keep the game close before pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 54-32 victory.
The last few seasons the Swamp was just another stadium as the Gators lost multiple home games. These seniors have been instrumental in taking back the Swamp and making the phrase “only Gators get out alive” a reality.
I know, I know you’ve been watching the running game all season and you’re tired of watching this boring run it up the gut offense. However, With Gillislee in striking distance of being the first 1000 rusher for the Gators since 2004 when Ciatrick Fason did it, this may be the right team for him. The Gamecocks give up 184 yards rushing per game against weak FCS schools, and with a smallish defensive line, hopefully the Gators banged up offensive line will be able to open a lot of holes today and Gillislee will break that barrier before the big game next week against FSU.
With the running game struggling pretty much since the LSU game and with FSU on the horizon it’s important the Gators get Gilllislee and the inside rushing game back on track. With Driskel out and Brissett in, they lose the outside running threat and can’t afford to become one dimensional. With teams loading the box, they’ve been successful at shutting down the inside run game and that has opened up the edge rushes for Driskel but with him out they will need to be able to pound the ball up the middle to keep the defense honest.
With Brissett barely missing out on winning the preseason quarterback competition many fans felt like the staff picked the wrong guy. With Driskel struggling all season in the passing game to make quick reads and to get the ball downfield, that fan grousing has only escalated. Well, Brissett finally gets his chance this week. This will be his first opportunity to play a whole game start to finish and we get to see how well he leads this team in game action. This could be the start of a real quarterback controversy especially if Driskel doesn’t come back next week and Brissett plays well this weekend and next. Stay tuned folks!
JAX STATE-FLORIDA CONNECTIONS
Young fans may not recognize the name Charley Pell but older Gators certainly knew Pell as the head coach that finally awoke the “sleeping giant” as Bear Bryant once referred to Florida. Pell took over the Florida program in 1979 and after a winless season with a quarterback named John Brantley at the helm, he went on to take Florida program straight up to an SEC title in 1984 which he wasn’t around to enjoy as he was fired for recruiting violations. The title was subsequently taken away by the SEC because they were on probation for those same violations.
Jacksonville State was the school that gave Charley Pell his first head coaching job in 1969. He was the first coach to lead them to any sense of competitiveness in leading them to a 10-0 record in 1970. Incidently, Will Muschamp also spent a spring there as an assistant coach as well.
Running back Waushan Ealey is a Georgia transfer who was notable for being the guy that Brandon Spikes gouged in that famous incident a few years ago. After dealing with off field issues at Georgia, Ealey transferred out and ended up at Jax State where he teams with Demarcus James to combine for over 1500 rushing yards this season.
SENIOR DAY ATTENDANCE
Emotions and tears should be flowing like a river today as 18 seniors take the field for the last time in the Swamp. With these guys experiencing the gamut of disaster and success during their time at Florida, they should be quite emotional for the start of today’s game. They have provided the bulk of the leadership that has brought this program back under Muschamp . Hopefully fans, who have been reluctant in recent weeks to fill the stands especially at kickoff will show up early and provide maximum support for these guys, because unlike many others, these guys never quit. They bought into what Muschamp was doing and put in the hard work to get where they are at today. The players have done their part, now it’s up to the fans to make the Swamp the Swamp again.